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Research Productivity and Impact

Research question: (How) does the library help to increase research productivity and impact?

Project Teams

Project Descriptions

Pilot Project: University of Illinois at Chicago and UC Berkeley

There has never been a doubt about the library’s overall positive impact on research productivity, but there is a lack of strong evidence to help identify specific areas of impact, particularly around open access issues. The UC Berkeley Library has strongly advocated for open access publishing, in order to promote a publishing ecosystem where the impact of research can be maximized by removing readership barriers. Actions taken by the Library range from signing the OA2020 Expression of Interest, to not renewing our Elsevier journal subscriptions, to negotiating transformative agreements with publishers. But what are our faculty’s opinions on open access issues? What is their actual publication output in open access? What is the impact of open access publications compared to the ones behind the paywall? What are the possible barriers for faculty to publish in open access? More importantly, how should the Library help?

Our recent 2018 Ithaka Faculty Survey revealed that 66% of our faculty consider it very important that the Library provides active support that helps to increase the productivity of their research and scholarship. Also, 71% of our faculty (a higher percentage than our peer institutions) would be happy to see the traditional subscription-based publication model replaced entirely by an open access publication system in which all scholarly research outputs would be freely available to the public. However, the survey also indicated that a higher percentage of faculty prefer no cost to publish than no cost to read, so cost seems to play a role in support for open access. What couldn’t be identified by the survey is the faculty’s actual open access publication output and how their opinions on this issue are related to their behavior.

In order to have a better understanding of faculty’s perceptions and behaviors around open access publishing, our research aims to look into possible areas of correlation between faculty’s opinions of open access and their open access research output. We also plan to investigate demographic differences, including faculty’s discipline, years of experience, job title, and funding support availability.

This research will help us and the broader ARL community to obtain a better understanding of faculty’s perception and behavior around open access publishing. It will provide insight into ways the library can support open access publishing and maximize our impact in these areas. Also, this research might suggest the need for, and value of, capturing publication output, particularly open access output, in the ARL Annual Statistics collection.

Pilot Project: University of Pittsburgh and University of Washington

The team seeks to explore approaches for understanding the contributions libraries make at key moments in the research lifecycle. Through semi-structured interviews, the teams will specifically examine the experiences and practices of early career researchers within STEM-related and health science disciplines. 

The project team is beginning with two core questions:

  • What evidence can highlight where research libraries make a contribution/add value to the full research lifecycle?
  • What are faculty needs and perceptions of library value and contribution to the research lifecycle? What methodologies can help us best understand and define library contributions in terms that resonate with faculty? 

Each institution will focus on a specific stage of the research lifecycle: University of Pittsburgh will interview early career engineering and basic sciences faculty to investigate the role of library resources in the information-seeking behavior of researchers in the discovery phase. The University of Washington will interview post-doctoral researchers and early career faculty in selected STEM and health sciences departments to understand their current needs for demonstrating the impact of their research and to explore the Libraries contribution to this phase of the research lifecycle.

The project will present findings, but the focus will be on documenting and evaluating the methodologies utilized to address each individual question, with the goal of providing a set of questions and tools that could be used by other libraries to better understand their contribution to faculty research. The two institutions will collaborate to discuss the effectiveness of their respective approaches to their individual projects. The research services selected for this project are in different stages of maturity within the library landscape and we are particularly interested in developing approaches that will help us explore differences in researchers’ understanding of the libraries’ role in providing these services.

Pilot Project: University of Manitoba

The University of Manitoba Libraries (UML) are undergoing significant changes in how it provides support to University researchers across 15 Faculties (84+ departments). Part of this change involved the creation of the Research Services and Digital Strategies (RSDS) unit to prioritize and coordinate support and services in 11 key areas. The Libraries are also engaged in four internal-evaluative processes including; the development of key performance indicators (KPIs) and balanced scorecards, drafting a Strategic Framework document for the RSDS unit, an institutional reorganization within our Academic Engagement units, as well as contributing to the development of a University-wide research data management strategy. This practice brief will provide the output of these four evaluative processes as they relate to library-delivered research support. This brief will also provide a lesson-learned section to highlight the pros and cons of engaging in four rigorous evaluative initiatives within a one year period.

The importance of the Libraries’ work in these four initiatives is three-fold. Firstly, the University of Manitoba Libraries, much like many other university libraries, are now more than ever charged with demonstrating its value in the face of potential (and more likely inevitable) cuts to its overall budget. Our Strategic Framework initiative seeks to define and better articulate how the Libraries’ research support demonstrably contributes to the research goals of our respective faculties and our parent institution overall. Likewise, the Libraries’ Key Performance Indicators (KPI) work seeks to more closely align our research support offerings while at the same time targeting those support areas where we need to collect meaningful and actionable data. Secondly, the reorganization of the Libraries’ Academic Engagement units is an effort to better allocate both human and financial resources to strategic areas that best support the strategic goals and priorities discovered in our Strategic Framework and KPI projects. Any reorganization of staff members and the accompanying redeployment of staff skill-sets to different and new areas, can have both positive and negative impact on research libraries. We anticipate that other ARL institutions may benefit from the insights gained during our Academic Engagement reorganization. Finally, having been asked to lead our parent institution’s working group on its university-wide research data management strategy, the Libraries are seeking to capitalize on this collaboration to first and foremost, demonstrate the Libraries’ value to our stakeholders, while at the same time highlighting the expertise of Librarians within the realm of research support.

Practice Brief: Vanderbilt University

Demonstrating the value of a biomedical library can be a daunting and somewhat ineffective task. The current literature base contains many articles attempting to achieve this goal by analyzing the collections through usage, citation analysis, and the return on investment. However, with competing budgets across university campuses, it has become essential to investigate and develop methods in which libraries can correlate collections and services as it relates to their role in the institution’s scholarly activity or output.

Vanderbilt’s practice brief is based on a pilot survey conducted in the Spring of 2018. The results of the pilot survey were presented at a regional medical library association meeting in October of 2018. The primary goal of the instrument is to document the various projects our stakeholders are involved in as well as the library’s role in those projects. The ARL practice brief will further explore and evaluate the survey instrument’s criteria in its current context and its potential utility in other research libraries. Upon completion of the project, the survey’s content and purpose will enable any library to document and disseminate their value (or impact) to its users, library administration, and university administration. It should also strengthen the library’s perception as a partner in their respective academic, research, and clinical enterprises.

Practice Brief: University of Waterloo

As academic institutions increasingly ask questions about research impact, libraries have the potential to be a valued and knowledgeable partner. This practice brief details the established role of the University of Waterloo, a research-intensive Canadian university, in supporting institutional-level bibliometric and research impact (BRI) data needs. While the Library is the hub for BRI services, success is due to close collaboration with two other units: Institutional Analysis and Planning (IAP), and the Office of Research (OR). The unique analytical strengths of IAP and the Library, combined with OR’s rich understanding of the local research ecosystem, represent a solid expert team, each bringing critical BRI insight to the University. While this operational program represents a formal support model launched in winter 2015, inspirational roots extend much earlier. This practice brief is highly practical, and offers a possible method for how other research libraries can support this growing area. Content includes background, partners, service providers and users, how BRI data is used, data sources, key lessons learned, and key resources. For almost 30 years, Maclean’s has ranked the University of Waterloo as the most innovative Canadian university, and this openness to innovation is key to why this Library’s setup is effective and the first of its kind in the country.